It's often been said that children are the most affected by divorce. Now a Toronto study has found that males whose parents split up, have triple the risk of suffering a stroke later in life, compared with men who don't come from divorced families.
Study lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson says, “A threefold risk is really quite a worrisome number.”
The Toronto Star reports the University of Toronto researchers examined data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC), from a health risk survey involving 4,074 males and 5,886 females.
The subjects were then asked whether they had experienced parental divorce before the age of 18. Then the researchers screened out other factors that could increase the risk of stroke; depression, anxiety, age, race, social support, lower socioeconomic status and riskier health behaviors like smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and alcohol abuse. Fuller-Thomson says, “I actually removed all the dysfunctional families,” explaining that people who had been exposed to family violence or parental addictions were also excluded.
The study, found that there was no greater risk of stroke among the daughters of divorced parents, but researchers aren't sure why the chance is so much higher for men, although they suspect it may be connected to the stress hormone cortisol.
The study also referred to research that males tend to experience higher cortisol levels to stress, than women. Fuller-Thomson tells Medical News Today, "It is possible that exposure to the stress of parental divorce may have biological implications that change the way these boys react to stress for the rest of their lives." It's a process known as biological embedding.
But Fuller-Thomson hopes the study will result in more research into the issue and hopes people don't become alarmed. “I just think there is a worrying association that needs more research. It does not mean that anyone’s whose parents are divorced are going to have a stroke.”